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The value of volunteers

There’s always something different going on in TNBA office – but one thing you can be sure of is that every Wednesday, we have a visit from our volunteer, Naomi.

After two and a half years of suffering a mystery illness, Naomi was finally referred to The National where she was diagnosed as having autoimmune disease and received treatment. Seeing her Mum come back to life, Naomi’s daughter Tasha volunteered with us and when she went travelling, Naomi came to take her place. So every week she comes and helps out in the office; today she was filling envelopes with our latest newsletter to send out and is also helping to organise donations of art for an auction.Having Naomi here and her invaluable help made me think about how important volunteers are to the way we and other charities operate.

Events such as the marathon at the end of April wouldn’t run were it not for the thousands of volunteers cheerleading, stewarding, manning water stands. Charities are indebted to people who organise fundraising events or who take part in challenges – yet we are even more reliant on volunteers, those in the background, working quietly away, supporting and assisting.

It doesn’t really come as a huge surprise that recent research revealed that only 2% of adults have been inspired by the Olympic Games to start volunteering. As Naomi says, “you’ve got to have a reason, you’ve got to have a link”. Big events such as the Olympics are incredible – but it’s the individual connection with charities that means volunteers help out for years on end. More encouraging figures show that in September of last year 43% of people questioned said they volunteered once or twice a week and this increased to 51% in January – so for dedicated supporters over long periods of time, charities need to really tap into and build strong networks of volunteers.

We have to value and cherish the work and support of our volunteers. Yes, the Olympics were a fantastic spectacle – but the real legacy comes from forming important, meaningful and lasting links with those who support your work. We need to make volunteers feel that their contribution to the charity makes a difference – because it really does.

As I write this, Naomi is sending thank you letters to our donors and laminating posters. She says she volunteers because she’s got her life back – “when everything starts to go physically, you lose your identity. This is my way of giving back, you can’t just take; it’s a two-way thing”.

If you have a spare few hours and would like to volunteer with The National Brain Appeal, we would absolutely love to hear from you – please do get in touch.

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